Saturday, December 10, 2022
This past week I’ve been writing about Faith, about grace and invisible strands, about seeing in the dark. As we’ve been journeying toward Bethlehem, we’ve felt in our bones this growing-darker time. And even with Wednesday’s magnificent full moon, we can each speak to a sense of more darkness coming. In the coming week I’ll be writing more each day about Hope. Seeking and remembering and discovering it. Learning from and leaning on it.
Reflecting on our recent living with and through COVID feels like both hands trying to hold, or at least support this awful time. Flatten the Curve. Washing hands. Social distancing. Mask up. Travel restrictions. Bubbles. Impossibly fearful times; surprised by beauty times. Both / and.
Even while living in the midst of the Pandemic, I tried to figure out what I was learning. Even in the midst I kept believing that all of it had to mean something. These scary, overwhelming, often desperate days had to mean something greater, something bigger. Not in a way of being `Little Miss Sunshine,’ because I don’t think anyone on the planet was in that place, but in a way of this has to matter for something.
As you’re reading this, are you able to think about a moment, an event that embodies your Pandemic experience? It’s probably not surprising to those of you who know me well that I can think of several ah-ha moments. But if I were pressed to tell you about only one, it would be the day Lucy (aka Lorie Jeanne) and I sang in the stairwell.
During the Pandemic I was working at the Children’s Hospital in Atlanta. Soon into the lock-down, even as essential workers, our work hours were shortened from full- to part-time. We were also offered coverage on the cleaning crews to make up the hours. [Remember when we believed that the virus stayed on surfaces? In hospitals there are immeasurable surfaces – doorknobs, railings, tabletops, on and on] I was able to pick up enough shifts during that time to cover my bills and I was grateful.
My colleague Lorie Jeanne and I tried to work as many cleaning shifts together as we could. Midway through our first day with the assignment of “clean all the surfaces from top to bottom” of our six-story building, Lorie morphed into Lucy and I, her faithful sidekick, Ethel. My Pandemic moment was that first afternoon in the staff stairwell. In addition to the six floors this stairwell continued below ground for four more floors down into the parking deck. We started at the very top, Lucy with one handrail and me on the opposite side. Making our way down, step-by-step. Scrubbing away like our lives (and our co-workers’ lives) depended on it. I honestly can’t remember now if it was me or Lorie Jeanne, but we started singing spirituals. “I looked over Jordan and what did I see…” “Gonna lay down my burden, down by the riverside…” The spirit of that day and the acoustics of that stairwell lent themselves perfectly to our singing.
The stop-you-in-your-tracks miracle came as we were singing. As we made our way down, every now and then we could hear a door open and close. Then we heard another’s footsteps on the stairs. I could never tell where they were in the stairwell, only that they were there. More often than not, whoever had entered also began singing with us. Sometimes with the words, not always. Sometimes harmony, not always. Sometimes in tune, not always. Every time with some shout of something like, “thank you for that,” as the stranger (angel?) exited the stairwell and left us singing on as we made our way down.
One quote that I have been carrying with me in my wallet through the Pandemic speaks well to this moment from the stairwell. Morgan Harper Nichols wrote, “Choosing to have joy is not naively thinking everything will be easy. It is courageously believing that there is still hope, even when things get hard.” Yes, and yes and may it be so.
Thanks to Booth 25 for this precious tree ornament
God of our Singing, we give you thanks. For the melodies and harmonies, for the words that come when words are hard to come by, for the stories held in each story sung, for the angels who bring unexpected alleluias, for your lovingkindness as close as our next breath. God of our Songs, we give you thanks this day. Amen